Creating a sustainable livelihood in the Indian Sundarbans

The Sundarbans project arose from the need to support the extremely poor people on the islands with a community run educational facility.

The aim is to provide learning content that will enable the people there to recognize opportunities in their immediate environment and to use them sustainably and find livelihood solutions in a region that is seriously threatened and already affected by the effects of climate change ( salinity rise, flooding and increased vulnerability to extreme events).

The Sundarban National Park consists of an island landscape on the southern edge of the huge Ganges delta, where the largest mangrove forest in the world grows. On the Indian side, 54 islands are populated with more than 4.5 million people, 50 islands are protected and are home to the endangered Bengal tiger. Our project area in the inhabited part, about 1 hour boat ride from Kolkata, is one of the most underdeveloped regions with little infrastructure and a high migration rate. The severe climatic conditions, together with the high population density, are the reason for the high level of poverty. The beneficiaries are predominantly women from disadvantaged castes and tribes.

Rice Sowing Training

Together with ChildFund Deutschland, we support the sustainable livelihood development program launched by the Indian organization DISHA. Both theoretical courses and practical training in the fields are carried out for the participants, including in the areas of organic farming, fisheries, animal husbandry and entrepreneurship.

field training

The team of trainers includes experienced farmers who are respected in the community and who can pass on their knowledge and thus train other trainers.

A lot of value is placed on the ecological aspects:

In the last rice seeding season, the advantages of organic farming, in contrast to hybrid varieties, were clearly demonstrated. Some of the islands suffer from severe water shortages, as the hybrid seeds require about four times more water than the newly propagated ones and also require chemical fertilization. Seed banks are established, organic pest control is taught and crop diversification is encouraged.

The trainers and experts are trying better and better to adapt to the circumstances, eg they have to adapt the course content to farmers who have never been to a school, the content is more audio-visual due to the high illiteracy rate. The teaching times must be based on the work in agriculture.

Courses at the Center have been shortened as it has been determined that farmers cannot neglect their fields for several weeks. Instead, more doorstep training is being carried out, courses on the fields that are even more practically oriented than before.

In addition to the core content of the center, the employees there are active in community social work:

For example, they organize small children’s events and support ecological initiatives against plastic waste in the ocean. As a new idea, contacts could be established with schools in Kolkata, which visit the Sundarbans with school classes and inquire about the centre, the islands and their inhabitants. In this way, an instructive exchange is established between the city children and the islanders, many of whom otherwise hardly ever leave their usual residential area.

The project attracts more and more visitors and is also used as a model project for other regions.

Project sponsor:      Childfund Deutschland e.V.

Project partners:     Bithari Disha, Swarupnagar

Funding year:          since 2017

Project No.:              73-17ro



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